Broken your New Year Resolutions already? Here’s a no fail idea to try.

How many times have you started a new year filled with good intentions? You are going to lose weight. Exercise more. Quit bad habits like smoking or drinking. Or you’re going to achieve a better balance between work and leisure, so you can spend more time with your loved ones.

But, a couple of weeks into the new year, you’re back to your same old habits. Because, let’s face it, losing weight or exercising require a great deal of will power.

New Year resolutions take more will power than you have

While we’d like to be slimmer, when the chocolates or chips are passed round they’re hard to resist. Heading off to the gym for a workout, or jogging round the block is very satisfying the first few times you do it. But then … The weather’s too hot. You woke up too late. Or you don’t feel well. Or you have too much work to do today. And before you know it, your exercise plan is out the window.

Exercise releases endorphins into our brains, that can make us feel good (the ‘runner’s high’). But oxytocin – another feel good hormone – actually gives a more long lasting, happy feeling. And it’s released by the brain simply by having contact with others. For example, when you share a hug. Best of all, both the hugger and the receiver of the hug feel the benefit.

Release more oxytocin

Any positive social interaction increases the output of this hormone. Sharing a meal, giving a gift, having an emotional heart-to-heart with someone, or just working together towards a common goal can give you a lasting feeling of calm and happiness. Oxytocin helps fight stress, improves your relationships and promotes long-lasting positive emotions. Just what we all need right now.

After two depressing and frustrating years of having our lives controlled by Covid-19, we could all do with an extra helping of oxytocin. And the really good news is that deciding to engage in more activities that release this feel good hormone doesn’t involve hard work or sacrifice. It is without doubt the easiest new year resolution to keep.

New perspective on life

If nothing else, the pandemic has given us a new perspective on life. Many of us lost loved ones and lived with the fear of possibly losing our own lives. We had to put the welfare of others – e.g. the elderly – ahead of our own wants and needs. We learned to treat others with more compassion and empathy.

On top of our Covid-19 fears came three devastating days of looting, burning and rioting in Kwazulu-Natal. Again, we took away some heartwarming positives from those frightening days. We found comfort and strength in being part of a community working together for a common good. We saw how people reached out to help one another. And we learned that if we stood together, we could overcome destructive forces and keep our families and our community safe.

How giving helps you get more oxytocin

The challenge now is to keep those good feelings and experiences alive throughout the year ahead. Here’s one easy way to do that. Simply make a regular monthly donation to your favourite cause, and tap into the joy of giving, as oxytocin floods your brain.

If possible, choose a cause where you can make a specific, tangible improvement to someone’s life. For example, if you donate R50 a month to Tafta, it will provide one meal, delivered straight to a needy elderly person’s door by our Meals on Wheels service.

Imagine how your beneficiary will feel

In your mind’s eye, picture the beneficiary of your generosity. Perhaps he or she doesn’t have sufficient income to pay for nutritious food. Or they are too weak and wobbly to cook for themselves. Your meal of soup, mains and a dessert will be greeted with delight and heartfelt gratitude. If that doesn’t make you feel happy and good about yourself, what will?

By giving R150 monthly, you can provide all the personal hygiene items one destitute elderly person needs: soap, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, body lotion, razor blades and sanitary products. But this is not just a gift of toiletries. It’s the gift of cleanliness and freshness that enables an elderly man or woman to face the world with confidence.

Gift of care, comfort and safety

You might choose to give a frail elderly person the gift of care, comfort and safety, by sponsoring the cost of a caregiver’s visit. For R250 per month, you’ll provide two to three visits a week, during which the carer will help the elder bathe and dress, clean and bandage wounds, make the bed and tidy up. Carers also help with shopping and other errands if necessary, and provide much needed companionship.

Whoever you choose to help … whatever you choose to give – make 2022 the year you commit to spreading happiness and comfort. And the year you finally keep your new year resolutions! In return, you can look forward to enjoying as much happiness as you give. Because that’s the way oxytocin works.